David Cameron will this week join Barack Obama in urging Nato allies to spend more on their militaries to defend Europe from aggression
Spending on defence must be increased to combat growing threats around the world, David Cameron and Barack Obama will tell their Nato allies this week.
They will call on European leaders to do more to defend the continent from aggression such as Russia’s actions in Ukraine, where Vladimir Putin has now demanded urgent talks on ‘statehood’ for rebel-held areas.
At this week’s Nato summit in Wales, Mr Cameron and the US President will urge members to meet their promises to spend at least two per cent of their GDP on defence.
The UK and US are two of only four Nato members who hit the target and British military chiefs have accused nations who regularly underspend of freeloading.
Mr Putin has demanded urgent talks on ‘statehood’ for the rebel-held eastern areas of Ukraine.
The Russian president said the issue needed to be discussed to ensure the interests of the overwhelmingly Russian speaking population in the region ‘are definitely upheld’.
The hardline rhetoric came a day after the EU gave Russia a one-week ultimatum to reverse its course of action in Ukraine or face sanctions.
It also follows Mr Putin comparing the Kiev government to Nazis and warning the West not to ‘mess with us’.
Last night Ukraine claimed ‘hundreds’ of its soldiers were killed when pro-Russian forces went back on a deal to allow them to withdraw from a besieged town 20 miles east of Donetsk. ‘We came from Ilovaisk bearing white flags,’ one soldier said. ‘They shot us from all sides.’
And in the first naval attack of the four-month conflict, separatists fired on a Ukrainian vessel in the Azov Sea yesterday.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said a rescue operation was under way following the artillery attack from the shore.
The White House says military spending is a top priority amid a more bullish stance by Russia’s Vladimir Putin
Ukraine and Russia exchanged soldiers who had entered each other’s territory near the battlefield, where Kiev says Moscow’s forces have come to the aid of pro-Russian insurgents, tipping the military balance in the rebels’ favour.
European leaders threatened action over the ‘unacceptable’ incursion by Russian troops, but the Kremlin denies Western accusations that its forces illegally crossed into Ukraine.
Mr Putin said Ukraine should begin ‘substantive, meaningful talks’ about the future of the country’s eastern region.
He said discussions should not be about ‘technical issues but about the question of the political organisation of society and statehood in south-east Ukraine, with the goal of safeguarding the legitimate interests of those people who live there’.
A Ukrainian fighter prepares to shoot at targets depicting a portrait of the Russian president at a shooting range
A bullet-ridden picture of Vladimir Putin hangs at a shooting range in Lviv, Ukraine. Today, Ukrainian troops and residents were reinforcing the port of Mariupol, the next big city in the path of pro-Russian fighters
Putin’s officials insisted that despite the use of the word ‘statehood’, he did not envision sovereignty for the two separatist eastern regions that style themselves as ‘Novorossiya’, or New Russia.
The White House said military spending was a ‘top priority’.
Lord West, a former head of the Navy, told the Telegraph: ‘People in a number of countries have been willing to get a free ride and are not spending.’
Although Ukraine is not a member of Nato, its president Petro Poroshenko, who met Mr Putin last week, will join leaders of Nato nations at the summit in Wales, where Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said efforts would be made to reassure the alliance’s eastern members.
Mr Fallon told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme: ‘I have authorised the deployment of an entire battle group to take part in a new exercise from September right through to December in Poland. There are going to be over 3,000 British troops involved in these countries this year and next year.’
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